The Brooklyn Army Terminal plays only a peripheral role in Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby Jr.’s dystopian 1964 novel about the Sunset Park and Bay Bridge neighborhoods of Brooklyn. But the compound—still an active base in the book—is the fulcrum around which Mr. Selby’s panoply of broken soldiers, hookers, junkies and hoods circulates.
Last month, the rejuvenated B.A.T. won a major tenant. The artisanal chocolatier Jacques Torres signed for 39,000 square feet in the 95-year-old compound that served as the United States Army’s port of embarkation during World Wars I and II.
“The building has soul,” Mr. Torres said. “When you go there, you touch history. When I visit, I get that cold chill going through me.”
The ghosts of army grunts and the military-industrial complex are not the only historical vestiges that haunt the 4.1-milion-square-foot B.A.T. and the Sunset Park neighborhood that surrounds it. There’s also a residual perception of the forlorn squalor and grit that permeated Mr. Selby’s novel.
“You know, it’s actually not a bad neighborhood,” Mr. Torres said. “You can go there and not get shot.” Read More